What's in store for IT contractor skills in 2019

With 2019 already well underway, IT contractors understandably want to know what’s in store for them and their skillsets in the coming year, writes James Milligan, director at Hays IT.

What contractors are asking (or should be)

As contractors, you quite rightly want to be on the front-foot and know how the market is faring including what rates are on offer. You should also want to know what trends are evolving this year from organisations -- your end-clients, which will help guide you when moving from contract to contract and assessing new opportunities. Knowing what the market is keenly looking for is particularly advantageous.

Pay rises, peaks and paucity

Generally-speaking, organisations are more reliant on contractors now than ever before. And technology and IT roles have very much dominated the top pay rises from the past 12 months, according to our Salary & Recruiting Trends guide. Indeed, a list in the 2019 edition of the guide detailing the top 10 pay rises shows eight in technology, underlining just how sharp the appetite is for talented IT professionals across all sectors.

Furthermore, 41% of technology employers are planning to engage contractors in the year ahead, a 6% increase from last year. Of those planning to engage contractors, the motivation is to:

  • meet peaks in demand (65%)
  • access specific skills for one-off projects (46%)
  • ensure flexibility of staffing costs (26%)

The issue is that it remains difficult for end-users to recruit into specialist areas across both the public and private sectors. Some 78% of IT contractors’ engagers said they expect to encounter a shortage of ‘suitable’ candidates last year, and this is very much unchanged this year.

Where it's hot in IT right now

But where? Well, from our experience, we know that contract developers, business analysts, project managers and cyber security specialists are the areas organisations just can’t recruit quick enough for -- in both permanent and contract openings.

We can now share a list of the top techies due to be in demand over the year ahead, showing the IT specialisms, roles and/or job titles which are set to be sought-after by organisations. Those on the list are where day rates are rising fastest.

The ten at the top

  • Data Scientist

 There is a continued demand across a wide variety of sectors including life sciences, consulting, insurance, transport and logistics and medtech to name just a few. Key programming languages engagers are keen to find include R, Python and SAS.

  • Cybersecurity Analyst

As major data breaches show no sign of slowing, organisations continue to invest in this area. Experienced cyber security consultants remain highly sought after, especially those with regulatory knowledge or project management experience.

  • Java Developer

Java continues to be popular and as such we have seen increased demand across most key sectors.

  • Full-Stack Developer

Popularity is rising for full-stack developers and rates are increasing as a result.

  • Front-End Developer

There is high demand for front-end developers across all sectors as digital transformation remains firmly on most organisations’ lists.

  • Project and Change Managers

Regulatory changes and the need for continued compliance coupled with the focus for digital transformation is driving large-scale projects across a number of industries. As a result, organisations are looking for project and change management contractors, particularly those with niche skillsets and experience. 

  • Cloud Architect

More organisations in both the public and private sectors are migrating to the cloud and as such there is plenty of demand for professionals to oversee this migration.

  • Embedded Engineer

With developments in the IoT gathering pace, demand for C and C++ engineers that can tailor that hardware will be sought-after.

Rate wars

It’s the demand for these IT roles among an intense focus on security, new regulation and digital transformation projects that are boosting the day rates currently commanded by technology contractors in the UK, as organisations compete for the most experienced to deliver critical projects.

Nowhere is that competition fiercer than in function testing, cloud and infrastructure and cyber security because, according to our most recent Technology Contractor Day Rate Guide, practitioners of these skills have all seen their day rates increase by more than two per cent, and that’s just an average.

At the same time, in areas like financial services, heightened security and changes in legalisation are supporting even higher, above average rate increases. Engagers in the public sector will meanwhile try and match rates where possible, to avoid losing out on talent as digital transformation in the public sector expands in preparation for an EU exit.

Knowing yourself

With Brexit and other big changes on the horizon, it’s imperative as a contractor that you remain acutely aware of your own individual market-worth, so you can benchmark your rates when you look for new opportunities. There is no slowdown from the many organisations in the UK consistently competing for technology talent -- shrewd contractors who know themselves in terms of their worth will use this to their advantage over the next 12 months.

Editor’s Note: Related –

Uncertainty causing IT firms ‘loss of momentum’

Reading takes top three spots in IT league tables

IT contractor demand edges up by six per cent

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